The Norman Transcript

National Sports

March 4, 2014

Time for trial

PRETORIA, South Africa — The first witness in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial testified Monday to hearing “blood-curdling” screams from a woman before she heard four gunshots on the night the double-amputee Olympian killed his girlfriend.

Michell Burger, who lives about 180 meters (196 yards) from Pistorius’ house, said the screams woke her in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14 last year, when Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp by shooting four times through a toilet door.

Pistorius, 27, says he killed Steenkamp by mistake thinking she was a dangerous intruder. Prosecutors, however, say the world-famous athlete shot his girlfriend after a fight. As soon as the trial started they used Burger’s testimony to hint at a loud argument before the fatal shots.

Burger’s evidence contradicts Pistorius’ version of events because the runner said he thought Steenkamp was in bed and did not describe any woman screaming.

“It was very traumatic,” Burger said. “You could hear it was blood-curdling screams. You can’t translate it into words. The anxiousness in her voice, and fear. It leaves you cold.”

Burger said: “She screamed terribly and she yelled for help” and testified that she also heard a man shout for help before the shots were fired.

Pistorius’ lawyer, Barry Roux, opened his cross-examination by asking Burger if she thought Pistorius was a liar. She didn’t directly answer that but questioned Pistorius’ version.

“I can only tell the court what I heard that evening,” Burger said. “I cannot understand how I could clearly hear a woman scream but Mr. Pistorius could not hear it.”

Roux, in an attempt to discredit her recollection of the sequence of events, argued that she heard just Pistorius screaming for help and trying to get into the bathroom by breaking down the locked door with a cricket bat.

Burger didn’t concede ground, saying there was “no doubt” in her mind she heard two different people screaming, one a woman, and then the four gunshots, with a gap between the first shot and then the other three. She said she could not mistake gun shots for the sound of a cricket bat hitting a door.

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